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Did Lane Kiffin have a player switch jersey numbers during game to trick opponent?

Lane Kiffin has a job to do at USC, and that’s to win football games. If that means doing something aimed at deceiving your opponent that is technically within the confines of the NCAA rules, Kiffin is open to it. For example, let’s look at his decision to have backup quarterback Cody Kessler change jerseys from No. 6 to No. 35 in the first half against Colorado.

According to the L.A. Times, Kessler played on special teams in the first half wearing jersey No. 35, which is typically worn by punter Kyle Negrete. Kessler nearly ran the ball in for a two-point conversion on one play but a holding penalty brought it back. When asked if Kessler was wearing the number of a punter to try to fool Colorado, Kiffin said very little.

“We change jerseys all the time with our guys,” he said on Tuesday. “We’ll change some more this week. Everything’s within college rules.”

That may not be exactly true. NCAA rules say that multiple players can wear the same jersey number as long as they are not on the field at the same time. However, within a section of the NCAA rulebook called “The Football Code” it clearly states that “changing numbers during the game to deceive the opponent” is illegal and should result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Obviously it is extremely difficult to prove whether or not a coach intended to deceive an opponent. It’s a mere judgment call from the officials, so you can understand why they might be hesitant to call it. Had Kessler not attempted a two-point conversion, it might be easier to believe that Kiffin was not trying to fool Colorado. We all know a mobile backup quarterback wearing a punter’s number and attempting to run the ball is no coincidence.


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  • Lando Calrisian

    There is nothing beneath him…he is the kind of guy always looking for an edge and always open to interpreting the rules in his own fashion even if it is underhanded.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GWZVDLGJVOZAP3RPH77HMM47LY Robert

    “If that means doing something aimed at deceiving your opponent that is technically with the confines of the NCAA rules, Kiffin is open to it.”  –  Steve, you are contradicting yourself.  If Kiffen was doing something aimed at deceiving his opponent it is AGAINST the rules of the NCAA.

    The rule states:  “Numbers shall not be changed during the game to deceive opponents.” A team caught doing so will be assessed a 15-yard penalty and “flagrant offenders shall be disqualified.”

    Later in the article, you actually bring up this rule. Why on earth would you think it wasn’t against the rules?

  • http://twitter.com/RumorsandRants Ryan Phillips

    If Kessler wore No. 35 for the entire game, that’s not against the rules. He didn’t enter the game wearing another number, therefore it wasn’t breaking the rules.